Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Series spotlight - Cat Royal

There are so many good books that have been out in the market for ages. Series Spotlight will be featured every week and is to introduce readers to series they may not have heard of before. Usually, these series will be ongoing, like today’s spotlight – Julia Golding’s Cat Royal series.

This series follow Catherine Royal, an orphan and ward of Drury Lane theatre, and her adventures in late eighteenth century London and further afield. The books are written in prose, but a cast list at the beginning of each book, and the dividing of ‘chapters’ into Acts and Scenes adds a fun theatrical touch. Maps and a list of vocab at the end of the book ensure that readers aren’t confused by the eighteenth century setting. In theory the books could be read as stand alone, but I strongly advise you to start at the beginning of this series as Cat’s relationships with her friends, acquaintances and enemies are complicated to say the least.

The Diamond of Drury Lane
Cat was found by Mr Sheridan, the owner of Drury Lane, when she was about two. She has spent her life behind stage in the theatre, rubbing shoulders with members of the highest of London society, while also being friends with some of the lowest. It is here that she meets Pedro, an African boy with a talent for the violin, Lord Francis, a duke’s son who seems to want nothing so much as adventure, and Jonny the new prompt, who takes over as Cat’s new tutor. It is also here that she first hears about the diamond hidden somewhere in the theatre. It’s not long before Pedro runs into Cat’s biggest enemy, Billy Boil and his gang, Lord Francis sneaks out to attend a boxing match with Cat, and news of the diamond spreads.
The first of the Cat Royal series is the only one exclusively set in the streets of London, among the gang fights and markets of Covent Garden, where Cat is completely at home. The theatre of Drury Lane is evocatively described and while I predicted the plot quite early on it was still entertaining and light-hearted, making me eager for more.

Cat among the Pigeons
Pedro’s old master has turned up and seems determined to recapture him. Cat, Frank and Lizzie do what they can to stop this but soon Cat is on the run herself. She has managed to cause an uproar in a gentleman’s club and the Bow Street Runners are searching her down. She is forced to ‘don a breeches role’ and go into hiding. However she soon comes face to face with her old enemy Billy Boil. Cat runs into many problems in this second book, including saving Pedro from being shipped off to the plantations, finding herself needing to behave in a ladylike manner among three Puritans, and the confusing necessity of acting as a boy acting a girl.
Again, a wonderful frolic through Cat’s home town, but the stakes are higher and the meanings are deeper. The author addresses the need for the abolishment of slavery and discourse on freedom and society are present. This is possibly my favourite of the Cat Royal books so far – the scenes with Cat dressed as a boy were the highlight.

Den of Thieves (US release date – April 09)
Cat heads for Paris as a dancing spy after Mr Sheridan’s shocking announcement that Drury Lane will close for building work. Once In Paris, Cat quickly becomes acquainted with Parisian street gangs of varying morals. Set at the time of the French Revolution, it’s inevitable that Cat would become involved in such an event. Caught between the rival gangs of the Thief King Jean-Francois and the Bishop of the Notre-Dame thieves, Cat has to cling to her cover as a dancer and come to the rescue of friends who are in serious danger.
Using the French Revolution as a vivid backdrop, Den of Thieves weaves a tale of intrigue and adventure, more streetwise savviness on the part of Cat and sees most of her friends reunited. With a light romantic element and a fast-paced plot this next instalment of Cat Royal’s adventures doesn’t disappoint.

Cat O’Nine Tails
‘His Majesty's Ship Courageous this present day calls all able bodied volunteers who desire great honour by serving the Royal Navy. Loyalty, courage and gallantry will be met with the warmest encouragement from Commander of the King's ship, Captain Barton. Early applications for the voyage are welcomed as Courageous will sail with immediate despatch. God Save the King.
Presenting the fourth volume from our famous feisty heroine Cat Royal... In which Cat becomes an unlikely recruit for the British Navy, takes passage to America and navigates her way through a fiendish plot to do away with Lord Francis, heir to a dukedom. From the grand Assembly Rooms of Bath to the wilds of a new frontier, Cat finds she is for once quite out of her depth. All aboard, Cat's going abroad.’
This book really addresses the issue of family – Cat as an abandoned orphan has always wondered about her family and in Nine Tails she finds a surrogate family in the most unlikely place. However most of all it is about finding yourself through new experiences. This is probably my least favourite of all the books so far. I can’t quite put my finger on why, only that by placing Cat so far out of her comfort zone the book has lost the chance to develop my favourite part of Cat’s character – her street-wise experience.

Black heart of Jamaica
‘Due to the threat of a rebellion by the slaves of this island, be it therefore enacted that from this day, 1st July 1792, all persons report any suspicions of revolutionary plots immediately!

By Order of the Governor
Presenting the fifth adventure from the spirited Cat Royal in which she joins a travelling theatre, turns pirate, undertakes a Caribbean Cruise and gets mixed up in a slave revolt.With a guest appearance from
Mr Billy Shepherd (Formerly of Covent Garden.)
Prepare to swash your buckle in Cat's most outrageous adventure yet!’
Pedro’s old master, Kingston Hawkins, is back and thirsting for revenge. This time, it is Cat on his home ground and he is well aware of his advantage. Cat seems to grow immensely in this book, and the issues of slavery, friendship, racism, independence and growing up are all sensitively and thoughtfully addressed. There is once again a large amount of plot packed into this book and with the fast paced action and a cast of wonderful characters it was a great addition to the series.

What’s next?
Cat’s Cradle, the sixth book. This features Cat going to Scotland and it appears has something to do with her birth family. Unfortunately it has been put back to 2010 for the development of a new jacket. I’m in two minds about this. While I’m disappointed about the set-back, I’m also glad about the new cover, which will apparently look considerably different. I put off buying this series for ages because I didn’t like the covers. Eventually, I only bought them when I read on one of the blurbs that Cat was a ‘dancing spy.’ I like the covers now, but they must put a lot of potential readers off. This also gives US readers a chance to catch up. Den of Thieves will be released April 09 in the US and I have to say I much prefer the US covers. Look how beautiful!

You can visit the author's website here, or buy the books here (for the UK) or here (for the US)


  1. I've read the first of these! It was a lot of fun.

  2. Hmm, I've been eying these for a while but never actually read them (or at least, the firs two books since I'm in the US). Your review changed that, because now I really want to read them! They sound a bit like L.A. Meyer's Bloody Jack Adventures, which if you have not read yet you really should.

    Cool blog, by the way! I found you through your comment on Jocelyn's review of Bloomability, and am adding you to my link list and feed reader. :-)

  3. I love the first few books but im not to sure on the last three.

  4. i love cat o nine tails!! i havent read the first few books but if i am half as impressed as i was with it then ill consider them a huge success!!ive ordered them but they still havent cum :(

  5. i read the first book and it was reaaly good

  6. i disagree about the covers of the books i do much prefer the english ones
    i i by far think that book 4 is the best as you see syd and cats relationsip develop

  7. i love the cat royal books! I think they r great and im soooo happy the new one is being realeased in 2010! :-)

  8. Fave one was 1st and the 4th. Cool blog!
    Cant wait until the new one is released. Wanna hear what happens!!! Cool blog! I agree about the 4th book and the whole cat and syd thing. Wanna no what happens there! I prefer the englsh covers.

  9. i love the books!!! i prefer the covers with cat on them

  10. will black heart of Jamaica have a new cover with cat on it ?

  11. I've read the first two (the first one I read twice). I prefer the English cover. cant wait to read the den of thieves. love ur blog BTW!